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  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Helmsdini's Avatar
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    Oct 2008

    Flash Flag Review

    As mentioned in this thread: Flash Flag: Added safety or dangerous to use?

    I recently ordered some flash flags to try and make me a little more visible on my commute. I figured I would do a quick write-up for anyone else that might be interested in these devices.

    Not long ago someone mentioned the flash flag to me as a means of staying visible on the road. According to the flash flag company some comprehensive tests done in Great Brittan and Europe have proven them to drastically reduce bike/ automobile accidents.

    I began searching for the flags and soon realized that these things are not very popular here in the states. I found this place in Canada:

    After doing some more poking around I found this blog from a gentleman in California that had some for sale.
    I followed the directions listed on the blog and received my flags very promptly.

    FWIW, there also appears to be an alternative horizontal flag called the D-tour safety flag.
    Search results on where to purchase one of these came up empty handed as well.

    Doing some more research it appears that some people swear by them, and some hate them. An example of the latter can be found in this blog by a triathlete that claims the flag did little or nothing to prevent close calls from traffic.

    I have heard the argument that perhaps the flag would portray the false impression that the driver was actually riding to the LEFT of where they actually were, thus increasing the likelihood of right side accidents. I also reviewed the statements about the ineffectiveness of the flag and the "dork factor" from the triathlete and came to this general conclusion:

    In my experience, the more effort you put into getting noticed by drivers, the more space you generally get. I noticed a drastic difference riding in a hi-vis jacket, having multiple rear strobes on my bike and installing a large amount of reflective tape. Each one helped me to be better seen by motorists which in general seem to appreciate the effort. It also makes you look more professional- I/E you aren't just some thug out barhopping and getting in their way, but rather an upstanding safety-conscious bike commuter or cyclist. As for appearing "dorky" I will gladly increase my "dork factor" if it saves my life in the long run. Furthermore, I have concluded that the city the triathlete rides in is much larger than anything I have to deal with, so I figured in my case the flash flag would be worth a try, especially at 10$.

    The flags I received were professionally shrink wrapped and seem to be fairly durable. They are also visible enough with two reflective strips on them.

    (quarter shown for size reference) The one complaint I have is that the flags seem a little small. Reading the instructions it seems that there are two flavors of these flags, one "road bike" flag which is 13" in length, and another "commuter flag" which is 17" in length. The flags that I received were the smaller ones, but with the difficulty in finding these stateside I guess beggars cant be choosers.

    The bracket that mounts the flag is another sour spot from what I had read- so I expected fitment issues. The bracket is basically made for the tiny road or touring bike tubes that are becoming increasingly unpopular amongst cyclemakers. Ian from the blog where I bought these offers an ingenious solution of using the original set-screw and running it through a hose clamp in order to make them fit on larger tubes, but I had a better idea in mind. I should also note, that while mocked up I was able to pedal like normal and had no interference with the flag. once in a while when I went to dismount the flag would hit the rear of my left leg while I put my foot down but nothing while riding the bike itself.

    Here is the flag mocked up the way it is designed to fit on most regular bikes:

    the flag also features a neat hook, that allows you to clip it down and out of the way when it is not needed:

    I opted to mount my flag on my Topeak rear rack (which serves as my fender). I took some electrical tape and taped the area on the rack rail to mount the flag to, then with a piece of rubber from some other bike accessory, made a shim for the clamp. This mounting also projects the flag out further away from the bike, and keeps it better out of the way. It also mounts it higher for better rear visibility.

    As for riding impressions: I havent compiled any yet, but I will do so shortly and report back to see if I feel more safe/ visible out there on the road with this flag installed.

  2. #2
    occupation : Foole
    Reputation: Fuelish's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Thanks for the write-up (and previous post), Helmsdini - I'm all in favor of increasing "dork factor" if it increases commuter visibility and improves one's chance of survival out there Might have to get me one of those - my state (Tennessee) has "3 feet - it's the law" whereby auto drivers are legally obligated to stay a minimum of 3 feet from cyclists....... this flag-on-a-stick might encourage them to stay just a lil further away, even.....perhaps.
    Keep on keepin' on ....
    - F

  3. #3
    mtbr member
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    Nov 2008
    I appreciate the write up and look forward to the riding experiences! I'll agree with your point about visibility-the more of an effort you make, the more motorists appreciate it. I noticed that as soon as I started wearing a full reflective ANSI construction/safety vest on my commutes I had a lot less honking, to say the least.

    Still on the fence about the flags, but I like the idea.

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Helmsdini's Avatar
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    Oct 2008
    Ok, I have some riding experiences to share with this flag installed.

    First the good: Its basically unnoticeable as a rider. I had no idea it was back there most of the time, no annoying sounds, no noticeable drag even in some pretty hard gusts of wind. I took it on a 25 mile ride yesterday and it seemed to work just fine, no issues or failures.

    The bad: This flag doesn't work like it is intended due to physics. While riding over 15 MPH, the flag is in one position, and that is completely horizontal. It doesn't really flap because the material is too thick and the flag is too small, it just sort of rides horizontal due to the wind. This is a major issue for visibility IMO, and while I tested it out and could SEE the flag while it was in this position, it is not as effective as it could be. I have thought of a couple ways to possibly fix this, but it seems the best approach is not to use a flag at all, but perhaps a pinwheel type device or just a solid sign (with air holes cut in it) similar to what they use in nascar, that simply cannot go horizontal while riding.

    The overall results, despite the flaw in the design is positive. I seemed to get plenty of room out on my country road rides with it installed. I cant credit all of this to the flag, as I wore my typical hi-vis stuff as well, but I didn't have any close calls while using the flag. It also seems to work well in more urban areas too, and I can attribute that to perhaps the slower speeds and the more frequent stops making the flag more visible.

    In short... it needs some design work IMO and it doesn't look nearly as noticeable when you are actually riding due to the position that it rides in. I think this may have contributed to the bad results that the triathlete had with the flag, especially if they were really cranking down the road.

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